National Parks of Honduras
Honduras has 40 protected areas, including 20 National Parks and a number of important wildlife refugees, biological reserves, anthropogical reserve and a biosphere reserve. National parks are natural areas, relatively huge and with typical vegetation, mostly untouched by humans. They play a very important role in the conservation of plants and animals, natural sciences, education and recreation. Biosphere are protected areas with a worldwide importance due to its outstanding plants, animals or habitats selected by the United Nations and the National Governments. Its goal is to protect the natural genetic biodiversity in our planet as well as the typical habitats of a region. It is an ideal place for natural investigations and a refuge for endangered animals and plants.
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Celaque National Park
Celaque National Park is located just 7.5 km from the historical town of Gracias in western Honduras. Declared in 1987, the park covers today an area of 267 km². Celaque means Box of Water in the local Lenca language. Due to its cloud forests, the park is a source of water for the communities in the surrounding area. It is home to the highest peak in Honduras, the Cerro Las Minas. Celaque is high in biodiversity and home to jaguars, pumas, ocelots, coatis, raccoons and tapirs, just to name a few. There are two main trails to discover the park; one leads to a waterfall - a 4 to 5 hour return walk, the second trail leads to the highest point of 2,849 m - a hard 7 to 8 hour hike one way.
Cerro Azul Meambar National Park
Just one-hour drive from San Pedro Sula, on the eastern banks of the Yojoa Lake, you will find the Cerro Azul Meambar National Park. The park, which protects an area of 478 km², was declared National Park in 1987. Due to its range of elevation from 415 m to 2080 m, the park contains a great biodiversity of species and ecosystems. Humid tropical forest, pine forest and cloud forest are all found in the park. The region around Lake Yojoa is home or temporal host to a huge amount of migratory birds. Over 170 bird species can be found in the park. The visitor's centre is the starting point for different trails, offering hiking opportunities of varying lengths and for people of all physical condition.
Cuero & Salado Wildlife Reserve
On the Caribbean coast, about 30 km to the west of the vibrant city La Ceiba is the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve. Its name derives from the two rivers Cuero and Salado, which enclose the reserve. Cuero y Salado was declared a protected area in 1986 because of its endangered Manatee population and to protect Honduras’ coastal wetlands. Areas of Mangroves dominate the zones of the canals and rivers. The main endangered fauna species in the reserve are the manatees, and two species of caimans. The refuge is helping the local populations of these threatened species to stabilize. Cuero y Salado with its extension of 132 km² can be visited easy from La Ceiba on a day trip. The park offers 2 hours guided boat trips to the Mangroves.
Cusuco National Park
Located in the Merendon Mountains south west of the industrial city of San Pedro Sula, Cusuco National Park covers an area of 222 km². Shortly after the Second World War, a US lumber company exploited big parts of the lower Cusuco region. Today, the forest has recovered and the national park, declared in 1987, presents an interesting mixture of primary and secondary forest. From March until May, one of the typical early morning sounds of Cusuco National Park is the call of the Quetzal, the mystic and holy bird of the Aztecs and Mayas. Other common birds are the Green Toucan or the small Hilguero. The park has a good maintained trail system. Four trails start from the visitors’ centre and offer walks ranging from one to three kilometres.
Jeanette Kawas (Punta Sal) National Park
Close to the Caribbean town of Tela at the Honduran northern coast is the Janet Kawas National Park, formerly called Punta Sal. The national park with an area of 782 km² was established in 1988 and protects one of Honduras’ most diverse areas. There are areas of tropical rainforest, mangrove swamps, coastal wetlands, lagoons, rivers, canals as well as rocky and sandy coastlines. Besides, the world’s second largest reef comes close to the shore. About 1500 Garifuna live in the scattered traditional villages that lie in the parks boundaries. Their villages and vibrant culture is another attraction that adds to the beauty of this park. The national park can be visited on a boat trip from Tela.
Lancetilla Botanical Gardens
Located only a few kilometers from the Caribbean beach town of Tela is Lancetilla Botancial Gardens, the second largest tropical botanical gardens in the world. The gardens where established in 1926 as an experimental site for testing different banana types by the United Fruit Company. In the course of time plants from all over the world were introduced. In 1974 the gardens were donated to the Honduran government. Due to the large range of plant species, the gardens are home to a great number of animals. 365 bird species have been counted in the gardens, among them parrots, toucans, tanagers, orioles and motmots. Guided tours can be organized or maps purchased at the gardens visitor center.
La Tigra National Park
La Tigra, located just 11 km from the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, is the oldest national park in Honduras. It has been declared forest reserve in 1958 and national park in 1980. With an extension of 329 km² it is the largest of the few remaining natural areas around Tegucigalpa and therefore referred to as ‘The Lungs of the City’. On the lower parts of the mountains the vegetation consist of conifers, around 1,500 m the cloud forest begins. The most outstanding mammals in the park are the felines, represented by Jaguar, Ocelot and the Margay Cat. La Tigra has two entrances and visitor centres: El Rosario, where the best facilities are found, and Jutiapa. In total, there are six well-maintained trails varying in length from one to five hour hikes.
Patuca National Park
Declared in 1999, the Patuca National Park is one of the newest national parks in Honduras. It is located in the very east of Honduras near the Nicaraguan border and covers 2,200 km². Together with the Rio Platano Biosphere and the Tawanka Reserve it forms the largest tropical rain forest remaining intact in Central America. Patuca is of great importance for many endangered species with wide-ranging territorial needs such as the tapir, the jaguar and the giant anteater. Toucans, red and green macaws, pink herons and other exotic birds enrich this forest. Patuca National Park is very remote and hard to access. The best option is to travel with a tour operator.
Pico Bonito National Park
Pico Bonito National Park is one of Honduras’ most beautiful national parks. It is part of the “Nombre de Dios” mountain range located on the Honduran north coast, just a few kilometres behind the Caribbean beaches and the coastal town of La Ceiba. The national park was founded in 1987 to protect the vegetation in the upper parts of the area, which consists of 85% virgin tropical forest. The highest peak “Pico Bonito” reaches 2,436 m and is the third highest peak of Honduras. The park is home to a huge range of animal species, such as Tapir, Northern Raccoon, Jaguar, Mountain Lion, Spider, White Faced and Howler Monkey. Different trails are prepared to satisfy hikers, but only special and well-equipped expeditions have a chance to reach the Pico Bonito peak.
Punta Izopo National Park
Located at the Honduran north coast next to the coastal town of Tela, Punta Izopo National Park was declared Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention in 1996. Since that time it has been protected and has gained more and more attention. The area is composed of mangrove forests, lagoons and coastal canals, tropical rainforest, swampy grasslands, and rivers.
Due to this variety of ecosystems, the national park is home to a great number of animals. Various reptile species which are in danger of extinction in Honduras live in the park, among them the American crocodile and four species of ocean turtles: the loggerhead sea turtle, the green sea turtle, the hawksbill sea turtle and the leatherback sea turtle. A tour to Punta Izopo includes kayaking through the maze of mangrove creeks and rivers. In this way you can silently sneak up on waterbirds and other animals without disturbing the natural beauty.
Río Plátano Biosphere
In 1980 the Honduran government declared the “Reserva de la Humanidad y Biosfera del Rio Platano”. In the same year the reserve was designated a UNESCO world heritage site. The reserve is situated in the northeast of Honduras and covers 5,251 km². It’s characterized by a great biodiversity of eco-systems: Vast mangrove swamps, pine forests, savannas, tropical rain forests, and elfin forest make up the reserve. It has been proven that the biosphere contains more tree species per square hectare than the Amazon jungle. There are also more than 80 archaeological sites located in the biosphere which are hardly explored. It is possible to visit the Rio Platano Biosphere independently, but due its remoteness and limited facilities it is recommended to travel with a tour operator.